When Ashley Weiss first saw the bracket-style double shotgun on Gallier Street in 2012, she knew she had to have it. She and her husband, Scott Aertker, made an offer the same day.
“We knew there were several other offers, so we wrote a sort of sappy letter to the owner explaining how we wanted to raise our family there,” said Aertker.
The letter worked. The couple closed on the house on New Year’s Eve, then launched a renovation to convert the double to a single and open up the floor plan.
After about seven months of work, Weiss and Aertker were happily ensconced in the 1900-era house, with son Isaac, 4, daughter Eliana, 21 months, and Ebony, their French bulldog. Their home will be one of eight on the annual Bywater Home Tour, scheduled for Sunday, April 3, from noon to 4 p.m.
Although Weiss and Aertker had minimal renovation experience, they knew what they wanted.
“We had been living in half of a double we owned on Poland Avenue, with my brother and sister-in-law living on the other side. But once Isaac was born, we started feeling the pinch,” said Weiss. “We love real estate, so we’d go to open houses and realized we didn’t like most of the renovations we saw. It made us realize we didn’t want a place that was totally done or one that was falling apart. This place was perfect.”
At just under 2,000 square feet, the house offered ample room to accommodate the family and also a large backyard for playing and entertaining. All architectural details were present and in good condition. Bargeboard in the rear rooms, mortise and tenon framing underneath, and existing chimneys are just a few features that appealed to the couple.
Using a sketch of the original floor plan that had been included in the listing for the property when they purchased it, Aertker and Weiss began drawing their vision for the double to single conversion.
“We didn’t want to change too much because we wanted to keep the character of the house, but we also wanted an open, modern floor plan with the least amount of hallway possible,” Weiss said. “Another goal was to keep the kids’ rooms as far away from the living space as possible so that their rooms would be quiet.”
To create the open feel they desired, they removed the center wall of the first four rooms of the house, keeping chimneys and mantels in place and installing a header to provide structural support.
The walls between the front two rooms on each side also disappeared. The living room is now situated in the flowing space on the left side of the house; the dining room and kitchen in the space on the right.
A short hallway leads past the powder room to a laundry on the left and the master suite on the right. The children’s play area, bedrooms and baths are at the very rear of the house.
“In our master bedroom, we built in closets on either side of the window and on one wall,” said Aertker.
The closets flanking the window made it possible to build in a window seat/storage chest where blankets and linens are kept.
“The best room in the house,” according to Weiss, is the master bath, where a clawfoot tub occupies the space in the middle of the floor. It aligns with the window and the red brick cooking chimney; a sparkling crystal chandelier hangs above.
On the opposite wall, the frameless glass shower is tiled with 12-by-24-inch pieces of striped marble. His and hers vanities on either side of the doorway rely on weathered natural wood in the countertop for visual impact.
Similar attention to detail was taken in every space in the house. Cabinets in the kitchen were designed by Weiss and Aertker and built by a Jean Becnel, a craftsman from Gonzales. Countertops are white Macaubus Quartzite and glass subway tile forms the backsplash.
Bargeboard wraps the base of the island as an earthy counterpoint to sleek materials. The couple found the stunning orb above the island (from the Random collection by Moooi) at Sterling Provision, a Marigny home goods store run by Dennis Weddle.
In the living room, the Eames chair was a housewarming gift the couple gave one another; a reproduction Barcelona chair in red leather complements the Arco floor lamp in the TV viewing space.
At the dining table, Lucite ghost chairs keep company with dramatic Norman Cherner chairs, adding to the home’s designer appointments.
Throughout, art by David Harouni (a friend of the couple) hangs on the walls.
A pair of French doors in the living room leads to a side deck that continues along the outside of the house to the backyard. A grassy expanse separates the house from the screened shed at the rear of the property, built by the couple for entertaining.
As enamored as the couple is with their family home, they express similar affection for the Bywater neighborhood.
“We love living in Bywater. Our neighbors are great and everyone watches out for each other,” Aertker said.
“It’s the most walkable neighborhood imaginable. A lot of times, a whole weekend will pass without us ever getting in the car.”